"Of Gears and Computers"
My name is Logan Lawson. I am a lot of things. I am sixteen years old. I am a son. I am a friend. I am a Honors Society student. I am a golfer and a caddy at Prairie Dunes Country Club. I am the founder of Pilot Car Registry. But most of all…….I am a gearhead and a computer whiz.
I know what you’re thinking. What could a kid my age know about Engineering Prototypes? Let me tell you the story.
I grew up surrounded by cars, stuff my Dad said was cool, so I believed him. Some of my earliest memories are tinkering with and chasing cars that some fellow named Carroll Shelby built before I was born. Dad and I did it all…. the good and the bad. If it was loud and hard to start, Dad owned it. We collected numerous Chairman Awards in The Shelby American Auto Club and multiple Best of Shows. I guess I didn’t realize how cool it was until I created this site and posted a YouTube video that got 250,000 hits. But, I’m getting ahead of myself….
Rewind the clock to 2009. Dad couldn’t sleep. Dad was always grumpy. He kept muttering things about a financial crisis that I didn’t understand. How bad could it be? He had me…and I’m the loot. Anyhow...
At the time I was spending the majority of my free time on the internet. Still am, I guess. I’m just not doing the same thing as before. I digress…where was I? I remember…there was an internet posting about a Camaro that I thought was cool. The owner was requesting authentication of a Camaro that he thought was the first Camaro ever built and wanted to sell it. I told Dad about it and it all began. Dad talked to the man over the phone the next day and didn’t come home for supper. I found out later that he was on top of a roof when the call came in from Oklahoma and he left in such a hurry that he didn’t even pick up his ladders and tools. When Dad got home, I knew he was excited. He said that his gut feeling was that the car was indeed the first from the atypical sheet-metal stampings and hole- punches. He told me that if I wanted it, we would have to buy it without proof. You know what my vote was…I called Grandma and raided my college fund. You have probably heard this part of the story…no proof…unemployment rate skyrocketing…every other house on the street for sale. The car came home with us and the local research began.
Now I don’t mind telling you…I know my way around high tech computers, but I know very little about how to start researching. So, I found someone that could teach me. Pretty smart, huh? Let me introduce you to the most tenacious, never-give-up, hound-dog-nose-having researcher that the car hobby has ever known…Ms. Jamie Schwartz. Between her and I, we documented every foot of asphalt and every garage that this car had ever not started in. With this information all documented and proven, Dad and Grandma were comfortable with me starting the restoration process.
That was pretty tedious for Dad. Jamie and I had found the original race car builder that disassembled the car back in the day, so that was a head start. But Dad insisted that every single part that went on this car be original to the car or NOS. I heard him mumbling more than once about not being able to pay for college, but I have grown used to his mumbling. After four years of research, parts chasing, and restoration…the car was finished.
That’s when Dad came up with the idea to reach out to General Motors and ask for help in procuring factory history on the car. Some of you may know my dad, but for those of you that don’t….there is a certain way EVERYTHING has to be done. On this occasion, a phone call to GM wouldn’t do. We had to drive to Detroit and let them see the whites of our eyes and feel our handshake. We met Mr. Christo Datini and he knew just the person to help. Enter….Mr. Phil Borris, author of “Echoes of Norwood”.
I was at golf camp at Oklahoma State University when Phil first called my Dad. It must have been a good conversation, because dad was doing cart wheels. Phil had informed Dad that during his research for the book, he had uncovered the original factory documentation…and it indeed did verify that Dad and I had been right all along. We scheduled an UAW reunion and Phil became a part of our lives. Phil's involvement as a content consultant and a mentor can not be emphasized enough.
Armed with the factory documentation that previously was thought to be lost, another GM Heritage Center visit ensued. Enter…John Kyros. A photographic genius who when apprised of the new search criteria, made many of the images on this site possible. In exchange for the use of these factory images, we agreed to build a website. Well…Dad agreed for ME to build a site. And in so doing, agreed that Miss Jamie and I would have to document all the Pre-Production Pilot Prototypes. After three years of staying up past my bed time... General Motors recognized my work. Thus far, we have documented the factory history of all the Camaro Pilot Prototypes and confirmed existence of ten of these examples in person that exist today. You know Dad now….handshakes and eyeballs.
The rest, as they say…..is history. It is precisely what this website and I are dedicated to saving and documenting. I did all of this just like the Pilot Prototype Camaros were built…one at a time…and by hand. I’m proud of it. Dad is proud of me. And General Motors gave me a big hug when Mark Reuss wrote me a letter of recommendation for college. Enjoy my work. Enjoy our work. And if you have anything that you would like to share…don’t call Dad when he is on the roof, he gets excited.
Update: February 19, 2016
The last 15 months have been a blur. That being said, I would like to thank everyone that made our displays and research possible. It’s because of readers like you that have utilized the “donation” tab that our display trailer and travel for the national events was made possible. We have continued on our quest to document and research the unknown facets of these Pilot Prototypes and the people that built them. Please feel free to peruse the “biography” page to view all the content that was achieved during our personal interviews of these individuals….it’s quite fascinating.
Pilot Book Biographies
Additionally, Pilot Car Registry was asked to help promote four national events where our research was showcased for the national media. The first was the Herb Leitz Reunion which took place at the Barrett Jackson Showroom and paid respects to Mr. Herb Leitz three months before his passing. Herb was the Norwood Factory General Manager during the time of early Camaro production. We were honored to play a part in this reunion and his presence will be missed by many.
Herb Leitz Reunion
The second event was conducted by General Motors at Belle Isle for the release of the all-new 2016 Camaro. Pilot Car Registry was asked to display during this event and N100001 and my research team were honored guests. You may have seen the press frenzy surrounding the infamous smile of Mary Barra sitting in my car, but for those of you that missed it…..its posted below. During this event, Mr. Mark Reuss and I spent some time getting to know one another. For those of you that don’t know, Mark’s first car was a Camaro and my stories of the experiences with my father surrounded by cars resonated with him. (Dad told him that he knew I was special the day I was born.... I just remember growing up in a town with one blinking stop light and a bank that was closed on Mondays). And last, but not least was the experiences with the Camaro Chief Engineer, Mr. Al Oppenheiser. These relationships led to an additional General Motors event that was slated for the Scottsdale auto week, the following January.
Mark Reuss -
Mary Barra -
Greg Wallace -
GM Heritage Center
The third event was the Carlisle Productions Event. It was an extraordinary week of showcasing our displays and research that cumulated in my organization receiving the Historic Vehicle Award. It’s an unprecedented award for a Camaro owner, because it’s far more than JUST an award. It included induction into the National Historic Vehicle Register which is an off-shoot of the same guidelines that the Statue of Liberty enjoys on the National Historic Places Register. We were honored to participate and be recognized.
The final event was the aforementioned General Motors Event held at Barrett Jackson in Scottsdale, Arizona to benefit Kettering University. For those of you that are not aware of this, Kettering University is the old General Motors Institute. Its programs are famous throughout the academic community and the university is steeped in tradition. Pilot Car Registry was asked by Al Oppenheiser and Sean Finegan of General Motors to display N100001 and our research during this event in their prominent display. Driving traffic and attention to the VIN 001 2016 Camaro that was auctioned off during prime time television coverage, we were proud to be involved with the raising of $500,000 that benefited Kettering.
During the last fifteen months, my humble research project has grown exponentially. I now have five researchers that donate their time and effort to tell these previously undocumented, historical anecdotes. My team and I have been recognized as Subject Matter Experts on these topics and our research utilized by the media to reach the general public. We have had 260,000 hits to my website and there are whispers of a documentary in the mix, but I’m content pursuing this content without monetary gain.
I’ve gotten better at writing, huh? That’s what my teachers say and I have you folks to thank for that. I think we have covered all the necessary details in formal fashion, so the rest of this piece is me being myself. Remember that letter of recommendation from Mark Reuss? Well….I wrapped that around four years of straight A’s in Honors courses and you know what? I got accepted to Berkeley and Cal Poly! My Dad almost came unglued when that happened. It didn’t take a genius to see how happy and proud he was. I didn't say anything before, because I didn't want to seem like a show-off.... but I wrote all the software for this website and built a computer to run it out of junk parts that I fixed. So, …..I chose Cal Poly. They have one of the top programs in the world for software engineering and I guess they thought I would be a great fit. They told me they had 65,000 applicants and accepted only 5,200 of them early decision. Pretty cool, huh? I know what you’re thinking…..swimming pools and movie stars, but that’s not me. I’m gonna live with Grandma….you remember her…..she is the lady that believed in me with her checkbook when everyone besides my Dad thought I was crazy. She lives about fifteen minutes from the campus, taught neanderthals like me foreign languages for thirty five years, and is a good cook like my Mom. So, I’m not gonna wither away or flunk English Comp.
We aren’t made of money…..wish we were, but we aren't. So….I’m applying for scholarships all over the country and maybe I will get lucky. Dad says that it’s better to be lucky than good at something, but I prefer to be both if I have a choice. The goal at this point is to go to California and set the world on fire. I have some good ideas for software that has applications in electric cars. It's amazing how easy it is to be inspired when you are interviewing the man that created the "electric drive" patent for GM that used was used on the Lunar Rover. I’m hoping for the best, so if everything goes as planned….everything about this site will continue from my new home base in California. Dad might be a mess when I leave…..you know car guys and how emotional they can be.
The next piece of excitement is the the research I have been putting together on the General Motors Defense Laboratories. Greg and Christo at the Heritage Center asked me to document their Electro-vaire II in the museum and they had nothing to work with. Dad found me a sponsor and I tracked down all the guys that are still alive in the General Motors Electric Drive Division. This was super “hush-hush” stuff back in the day…..but the guys took all their original documents home with them. And I’m not talking about small potatoes here…..I have accumulated over 800 pages of documents that prove that most of the chapters in History books are pretty much wrong on the subject. I can’t get too crazy with details, but I will be releasing this research for everyone to read in August before I roll to California. It’s gonna be awesome.
I guess we are about all caught up. We found a couple more Pilot Prototypes that are still around and made a couple family’s eyes light up…..so that’s good. I’m up to 10,000 files for you to read on the website and I’ve managed to keep those grades rockin and clock 4,000 hours to this humble establishment. We’ve been recognized for our research…..which is better than the “Most Wanted” poster at the post office. I’m happy…..I hope you are. We’ve definitely come along way with one another. Dad still beams when I walk in the room, so we must be doing something right…..thanks for everything.
Update: May 14, 2016
High School Graduation
Update: August 13, 2017
So, the last fifteen months have been pretty amazing. The process of being inducted into the Historic Vehicle Registry is overwhelming. In addition to traveling to Allentown, Pennsylvania twice to shoot publicity images and video, my research was vetted and approved by the HVA for acceptance into the Library of Congress. We were awarded a Historic American Engineering record by the United States Department of the Interior under KS-11.
The next step was to unveil its induction at the Woodward Dream Cruise and we were sponsored by Chevrolet, Shell, Pennzoil and Hagerty Insurance. N100001 was displayed in the glass cube within Chevrolet's promotional area right on the curb adjacent to Woodward Avenue. The amount off press that our research has received is staggering....I feel truly fortunate. It was an amazing week and things really heated up from there.
Dad and I traveled together to California at the beginning of September to move my life to Cal Poly. It was tough to leave everyone behind, but we managed to stay busy enough that we were in constant contact while I was there for my first year of school. In addition to continuing my research, I should probably tell you.....college is hard. They tell you that it is all parties and doing new things, but it wasn't for me. I studied every weekend....didn't get home from class most evenings until 7:00 pm...and didn't run the wheels off and my grades got a thumbs up from General Motors President, Mark Reuss. I did join a couple Cal Poly Clubs for fun...The Cal Poly Off-Road Goats Club and the Cal Poly Tractor Pull Club. I know it doesn't sound too much like the west coast, but there is something for everyone at my school. I also decided to join the Caly Poly Entrepreneurs Club next year.
Things were cruising along pretty quiet until a couple of weeks before Halloween...that is when Sean Finnegan called and asked us to attend and represent Chevrolet in their booth at SEMA. That was truly an amazing event and I hope we get to return in the near future. Oh, and one other thing...now that I am in college, our traveling expenses to the events are being taken care of in the form of appearance fees. Pretty cool, huh?
You would think that would be the highlight and the end to an eventful year, but it wasn't. No sooner than I came back home to Kansas for the Christmas Holidays...Sean called again and asked us to represent at The Concours d'Elegance at Amelia Island in Florida. They sent a transport for the car and made arrangements for the team to fly in and I got to spend the weekend with Dad in a wonderful way.
Thats when things got crazy. We had made such a huge splash with our displays and research...that the phone started to ring for the 2017 spring and summer shows. A whirlwind of engagements ensued and we have been going non-stop ever since. I invested the money that I had left over from the appearance fees that had accrued throughout the year and bought production gear. We have been adding video content to the site ever since and there is over 40 short videos that are slated before the end of 2017.
One other thing....and its a doozie. Remember when I promised to release my research for the General Motors Defense Laboratories about the Electric Drive Division's activities with the Lunar Rover and Electric Vehicles in the 1960's? Well, I signed with 779 Productions for a full length documentary that is slated to be released after their "Legends of Norwood" documentary next year. So, I haven't forgot...its coming. I am currently working as a remote intern on the project and have the title of Executive Producer and Subject Matter Expert. It will be good stuff and I know you will all enjoy it.
We are scheduled for "The Legends of Norwood" celebration and car show at the end of August and then I will have to return to Cal Poly. Dad is going to cover F-Car Nationals in Memphis for me in September...so, maybe you will see him there. He is hiking into the Supai Indian Reservation to explore the Grand Canyon and the Havasupai Falls with me when he rides back with me to California...so, when you see him, he may be a little sore. That's it, we should be caught up. So, until next time...
All of the Vehicles produced by the former General Motors Corporation at its long expunged Norwood, Ohio factory are all existing trademarks of the new General Motors Company. Any and all historical marks as used here are used for identification, description, illustrative, and educational purposes only. This site is not affiliated with General Motors Company.
By: Logan Lawson
Registrar Of WWW.PilotCarRegistry.com
Copyright 2014 Logan Lawson. All Rights Reserved.